Tom Strodl was diagnosed with
chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in 1990
Towards the end of June every year for the past thirteen, Tom had gone to a lodge at the northern end
of the Queen Charlotte Islands with a group of old friends to “power fish”, and it was always a high
point of his summer. He’d been feeling a little tired of late, which, at forty-eight years old, we laughingly
referred to as his new speed. However, he did go in for a physical before he left.
He arrived home at the end of the week to find a message from our GP’s
office asking him to please call. By the time he was able to call, the
office was closing for the weekend and the only one still there was
the office nurse. She was so taken by surprise, she blurted out
the fact that Tom had “missed his appointment at the Leukemia
Clinic at UBC Hospital.” Realizing that Tom had absolutely no idea
what she was talking about, she quickly made him an appointment
for first thing Monday morning and wouldn’t say more.
Needless to say we spent a very uneasy weekend trying to find out who
this doctor was and what exactly his specialty was, to no avail. We arrived
at our GP’s office, having more or less convinced ourselves that this was some sort of a mix-up in the
paperwork. Unfortunately we were very much mistaken. Our GP was off on maternity leave and this poor
doctor whom we barely knew had the difficult task of telling us that Tom’s lab work indicated CML and he
needed to go to UBC for a bone marrow biopsy, as soon as an appointment could be rescheduled.
We sat in the office trying to absorb this information. This was the first time we heard that this was the “best” kind of leukemia to have, if you had to have leukemia, and other useful information. After a short
time Tom excused himself to get some air and left the office. I stayed long enough to get scripts for anxiety
and sleep, and was also told our GP had said to feel free to call her at home (which we did). The drive home
was very quiet as we tried to get our brains around the idea that our very good life had just been changed
In very short order we found ourselves at the UBC clinic for the first of many bone marrow biopsies. We
were walked through the procedure by a very pleasant doctor who told Tom his bones were as tough as a bull elephant. For some strange reason we thought this was a good thing! This procedure, not to mention
the several prescriptions we left clutching, made the reality of Tom’s diagnosis undeniable.
The painful necessity of telling the families had arrived...